Are all phone calls recorded and available to the US government? What do you think?

timclemente
Former FBI agent says “YES”

The real capabilities and behavior of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.

…on CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett…anonymous government officials are claiming that they are now focused on telephone calls between Russell and Tsarnaev that took place both before and after the attack to determine if she had prior knowledge of the plot or participated in any way.

On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:

BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?

CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.

BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.

CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not…”

On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored:

Let’s repeat that last part: “no digital communication is secure“, by which he means not that any communication is susceptible to government interception as it happens (although that is true), but far beyond that: all digital communications – meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like – are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact.

In my own life and experience I came to accept this fact decades ago. After all, as a civil rights activist…my first face-to-face confrontation with the FBI was at the front door of the factory where I worked – in the 1960’s. But, I knew as a matter of practice that for the rest of my life there would be some record kept of what I said and did.

I’ve never had any reason to doubt that continues – whether our nation is headed by a prick like Reagan who gave the NSA their first breakthrough budget or a conservative Harvard Democrat like Barack Obama. The only difference being technology now allows for warehousing and data mining every electronic conversation. Trusting the government of the United States to defend the Bill of Rights at root and cause is a fool’s game.

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